The England blog - Capello does not have a Plan B

By 01 April 2010 11:39

It was a scene no England fan wanted to see - Wayne Rooney going down after an innocuous challenge, clutching his foot and signalling to the bench.

The silver lining to this dark cloud is that Rooney's ankle injury has ruled him out for two-to-four weeks, according to early reports, which means, barring further knocks, he will still be going to South Africa.

England fans (and our managing editor for that matter) have argued that Rooney's latest setback is a blessing, as it will hopefully prevent him from picking up further injuries to rule him out of the World Cup altogether. To an extent that is true - he could potentially miss six games for Manchester United if he takes a full month to recover. But every forward craves a run of games to build momentum.

It will be very difficult now, even by Rooney's standards, to reignite his fantastic season after sitting in the stands, watching his club challenge for honours, both domestically and in Europe.

Another concern is that he returns too soon after his knock. Alex Ferguson will want his prized asset playing in the majority of his side's remaining fixtures. But if Rooney is rushed back into the team, a further injury may lie in wait if he has not fully healed. Rooney's approach to football has always been to play every game it is physically possible to participate in, and while that attitude is commendable, it may prove costly to both United and England's chances of success.

From on England perspective, Rooney's injury has shown we are still too heavily reliant on the 24-year-old. Quite rightly, Fabio Capello has based England's current tactics around the influential striker. But without Rooney, the Italian will be exposed to the problem that has haunted his predecessors - England are too one-dimensional in attack.

One option would be to play a combination of our remaining strikers who are in with a chance of going to South Africa: Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Darren Bent, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Carlton Cole and Bobby Zamora.

The other possibility is to play Steven Gerrard off one of the aforementioned forwards, similar to his role at Liverpool, where he sits just behind the prolific Fernando Torres.

Both alternatives are slightly flawed. Picking two from those players mentioned will not give England the same fluency Rooney delivers. The two who could come close to replicating the Heskey-Rooney partnership are Crouch and Defoe, but that's only because they are club-mates.

Equally, the England manager does not have the luxury of a back-up who boasts the same quality as Torres. Any striker who plays in front of Gerrard will not have the same prowess as the Spaniard, let alone be on the same wavelength as the midfielder.

It would be hard for the England manager to form a new striking duo so close to the tournament. With such little time to prepare in the two friendlies against Mexico and Japan before facing the USA in their opening World Cup game, Capello will at least need to consider who should start if Rooney is absent.

A glimmer of hope for the Italian is that he has a variety of choice when selecting his strikers for the 23-man squad. The players who are in contention all boast an array of different qualities: strength, pace and the finishing instinct. But it's a different task altogether asking to deputise for Rooney.

It seems an all-too-familiar story with England, particularly Rooney, who fractured his metatarsal six weeks before the World Cup in 2006. This latest injury threatens to expose the national side once again for depending too much on one player. On a brighter note, there is now an opportunity for the remaining striking candidates to stake their claim for a place in South Africa.

These next four weeks are key, not only to Rooney, but to the rest of England's striking hopefuls.


Source: DSG

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